The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has urged the Federal Government not to approve the reopening of schools until next year due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Speaking in an interview, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU President, said the union backs the decision of the Federal Government to stop Senior Secondary School 3 (SS3) students from partaking in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), earlier scheduled to commence on 4 August.
According to Ogunyemi, the country has to effectively combat the virus and safeguard the lives of all Nigerians, especially children, before schools should be asked to reopen.
He stated that rather than Nigerian students to be used as experiments in assessing how people sh crowded areas, the Federal Government should instead adopt the decision by Kenya, which closed all schools to 2021.
“Look, Kenya has said they have closed all their schools till next year (2021); they too have exams to write. Safety first. If it means closing the schools until next year to safeguard the lives of Nigerian children and safeguard the health of all Nigerians, so be it,” Ogunyemi said.
“So, if that will help us to address cases that can lead to increase in mortality, I think Nigerians should go that way and all of us should see reason for it. If they need to cancel admission for the year, it is good for them. Life matters first, people must have life first before they can go to university. Are the universities ready to work now?
“Our position is that they should not experiment with the lives of our children. Nobody can tell; the situation may soon normalise and they can do their exams and there is another opportunity for external candidates around November. So, it’s not as if the door is totally closed.”
The ASUU President also insisted that schools are not safe to reopen.
He said: “The first thing that should be tackled is whether schools are safe. And if the schools are not safe, why do you want to carry out an experiment with the lives of our children? An attempt to send back the children to school at a time there is a spike in COVID-19 cases in Nigeria is like experimenting with the lives of our children.
“If they put all the things in place, including social and physical distancing, sanitisers, kitting the children as we see in other places, decontamination with water flowing in the schools and all the gadgets, why not? So, if government can meet all these conditions, then they can reopen the schools. But if they cannot meet all these conditions, they should not experiment with even 10 students in any school.”